Sunday 23 November 2014

Haughey branded 'unhelpful' by British

Shane Hickey

Published 28/12/2012 | 05:00

FORMER Taoiseach Charlie Haughey was described as "unhelpful" and some of his comments "offensive" by British diplomats at the height of the Troubles.

The frequently contentious relationship between the British government and Mr Haughey is starkly illustrated in a series of communications between the embassy in Dublin and their London headquarters in 1982.

While the then Taoiseach was described as a "shrewd and clever politician", the British appeared constantly frustrated at his public proclamations on the North.

The comments, contained in documents released by the British National Archives, also show Mr Haughey to be bitter and angry at his treatment by Margaret Thatcher.

In one memo from September 1982, an embassy official states Mr Haughey made a series of troublesome comments about the Northern Irish assembly.

The comments are said to have been "unhelpful and offensive" even by the standards of the Taoiseach, says the diplomat.

Rumours emerged about the possibility of troops being taken from the Border and concern was raised by the Northern Ireland Office at the security implications.

The British queried whether "Mr Haughey is carrying his current unhelpfulness to this extent" or that the Irish government was simply illustrating security should not be taken for granted.

When, in October 1982, Mr Haughey was facing a challenge for his leadership, the British outlined their view of his prospects.

Mr Haughey is a "shrewd and clever politician with a strong desire to stay in power" stated the communication.

Earlier that year, the MP Shirley Williams said after a meeting with the Taoiseach that he was "very bitter" at what he perceived as being the cursory treatment he received by the British during the Falklands crisis, judging him "hurt" as a result of a lack of communication.

Ambassador to Ireland, Sir Leonard Figg, had earlier outlined how Mr Haughey felt he was compared unfavourably in Britain with Garret FitzGerald, and there was a perception he was not liked and viewed as not a nice man.

"He had the feeling that many in Britain treated the Irish with derision," the ambassador wrote.

In return, Sir Leonard said Mr Haughey's unhelpfulness on the North and the Falklands had created a bad impression.

"I fear our relations are pretty ragged," the ambassador wrote in May 1982.

Irish Independent

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